Mom might have told you that cartoons will rot your brain, but Chuck Jones
The creator of the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin Martian and so
many other Looney Tunes pals, Jones used his creativity and his wit to
stay eternally young at heart.
Now studies show that creativity like Jones' can help a person stay
young cognitively too.
When you activate an area of the brain, it works like a muscle. It gets
bigger and functions more efficiently. MRI studies have revealed that
creative activity activates more brain areas than just about any other
kind of activity.
It is therefore possible that creative pursuits can help prevent damage
from dementia, an exciting theory that suggests that by adding more creativity
to our lives we all can do something to help delay or minimize the ravaging
effects ofAlzheimer's and other devastating cognitive diseases.
That is why theOrange County Vital Brain Aging Program at Hoag Hospital
is partnering with the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity in Costa Mesa
for an event Friday to highlight the importance of creativity for cognitive health.
Jones, who continued drawing until just a month before succumbing to congestive
heart failure in 2002 at age 89, intuited that creativity was not something
that some people had and others did not. Creativity is quantifiable, understandable
and, most importantly, teachable.
Creativity is a natural function of the brain, an approach to solving
problems that we all access whenever an answer isn't perfectly clear.
Whether you're a painter or a pencil-pusher, you probably engage in
creative problem-solving every day. When confronted with a problem, you
are likely to draw upon your accumulated knowledge about the topic, brainstorm
to identify potential solutions and then analyze and select one solution
that makes sense in the context of the problem.
What the program at Hoag and the Center for Creativity hope to do is teach
people how to unlock that creativity more often. We also hope to work
together to measure creativity's effect on the brain.
The partnership represents a bit of creative thinking from Hoag and the
Chuck Jones Foundation. Taking an icon of our culture and marrying it
to a scientific approach is incredibly exciting, and we are eager to see
what insights into brain aging we draw (pun intended).
Much research has been done on the palliative effect of art therapy for
patients suffering dementia. What new research is finding, however, is
that art, drawing, dance, singing and other pursuits also seem to help
"reroute" communication pathways, bypassing some of the significant
problems of dementia.
This doesn't mean that drawing can cure Alzheimer's. But it does
suggest that maintaining an active, engaged brain might be just as important
to brain health for people in their 50s and 60s as cardiovascular exercise
is to heart disease prevention.
In his autobiography, Jones wrote, "Perhaps the most accurate remark
about me was uttered by Ray Bradbury at his 55th birthday party. In answer
to the usual question: 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'
Ray replied: 'I want to be 14 years old like Chuck Jones.' Perhaps
this will be my most apt possible epitaph."
And perhaps it will be the secret that unlocks true hope in the battle
against Alzheimer's and other cognitive diseases.
To learn more about how unlocking creativity can help keep your mind sharp,
please join us for a family-friendly event at 6 p.m. Friday at Hoag Conference
Center, 1 Hoag Drive, Newport Beach. Information is available athttp://www.Hoag.org/brainhealth.